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Reach for the Peaks: 25 years of hot air

2010 marks the 25th anniversary of the ColorFest Hot Air Balloon Rally.

The Rally has morphed over the years under the direction of various coordinators including Mike and Liz Marchand, Terri House, Angel Preuit and the numerous volunteers.

Every year, pilots from all over the region come to Pagosa to fly the beautiful crisp skies while enjoying superb hospitality. This year is no exception and balloonists will fill the air space around Pagosa with their colorful envelopes on Saturday and Sunday mornings, Sept. 11 and 12.

The balloons will ascend from the downtown area on Saturday morning. The pre-flight meeting will take place under the tent in Town Park around 7 a.m. Flight will occur then between 7:30-8. Watch the pilots make some splash and dashes around the river while people obtain “Kodak moments” around the hot springs and river.

On Sunday morning, the pre-flight meeting will take place in the Wells Fargo parking lot on the west side of town at 7 a.m. Launching will occur again after 7:30. from various points around the west side of town, primarily near the Pagosa Lodge and Aspen Village area.

Another facet of the ColorFest weekend that has changed over the years is the Passport to Pagosa Wine & Food Festival.

What once was a wine and cheese tasting in the parking lot at the Chamber Visitor Center then moved to Town Park with a wine tasting event with some appetizers. After only two years, the event outgrew the small tent in the park and now an 8,000 square-foot tent is placed in the athletic field, complete with food from some of Pagosa’s best restaurants and wines from all over the world.

The Passport this year will take place on Friday, Sept. 10, from 6–9 p.m. Wines from South Africa, Italy, Spain, and Washington and Oregon will be featured this year. The Chenin Blanc and Pinotage wines are among South Africa’s finest. From the Oregon region we will experience some awesome Pinot Noir and Pinot Grigio — these wines setting Oregon on the wine map. From Italy, we will go traditional and enjoy some Chianti, some sparkling wines, and the popular Sangiovese. What would wine be from Spain without trying some Rioja, some Tempranillo, and some amazing lesser-known varietals making waves in the wine world?

Other traditional wines will also be offered, giving every wine lover a chance to enjoy some great vintages.

This is an event not to be missed. Not a wine drinker? Enjoy some of the best beer anywhere as Pagosa’s own Pagosa Brewing satisfies the beer aficionados. Thanks to Citizens Bank, again a major sponsor of the wine festival. Restaurants participating this year include Ajia, Alley House Grille, Boss Hoggs, Farrago Market Cafe, JJ’s Riverwalk, Nellos, Pagosa Baking, Pagosa Brewing and Plaza Grille. The food being planned is absolutely amazing and not to be missed! Don’t forget, there will also be a People’s Choice award for best overall fare. Other awards will be given for Best Decorated Booth, Most Original, Best Sweet, and more.

Three years ago, a music competition was added to the weekend. After making various changes throughout the years, the Bands, Brews, Etc. will take place all on one day this year. Beginning at noon Saturday, under the tent at the athletic field, seven to eight musical groups and individual performers will compete for the “Best Band” and “Best Single or Duo” awards. There will also be microbreweries from all over the region in attendance, showing off some of their best brews. The microbrewery tasting will occur between noon and 5 p.m. During this time there will also be wine for sale by the glass. There will also be a People’s Choice Award given to the best brew. After 5 p.m. you can enjoy more music, and beverages will be available by the glass. We thank our major sponsor, The Springs Resort, for participating in this fun, musical day, as well as all our other sponsors for making the kids’ events happen and for sponsoring our musicians. Along with activities for the kids there will be food and plenty of room to enjoy a day with the family.

At about 7:30 p.m. Saturday, weather permitting, the annual Balloon Glow will take place at the athletic field in Town Park. Attendees at the concert can enjoy a front row seats and other onlookers can watch the glow from U.S. 160, the pedestrian bridges or other points — just don’t block traffic, please.

ColorFest weekend draws in visitors from he Front Range and northern New Mexico as people anticipate the change of seasons, Pagosa’s fantastic hospitality, a perfect backdrop and lots of activities.

Tickets for the Passport to Pagosa are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. This price includes a collectable glass and plate and plenty of delicious wines and food.

Tickets for the Bands, Brews, Etc. are $5 for anyone over 12 years of age. To partake of the microbrewery tasting, the additional cost is $15, and includes your collectable pilsner mini-taster. You are highly encouraged to purchase your tickets for the Wine Festival in advance as only a limited number of glasses are ordered and food prepared. Tickets for the Bands, Brews can be purchased at the gate.

For more information, visit the Chamber website at or call 264-2360.

Here’s to celebrating another 25 years of hot air and celebrating the change of seasons!